In today’s Gospel we see that Jesus’ enemies, the religious leaders of the Jews/ the Pharisees come to “test” Jesus. They do not come seeking truth; they do not come to Jesus with a truly enquiring heart. Instead, they come with hatred trying to get evidence against Him and trying to trip Him up in front of the people. Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Had Jesus said “Yes”, then he would be seen as siding with Herod against St. John the Baptizer who had called Herod out on the sin of adultery; if Jesus had said that divorce and remarriage were wrong, it would seem that He was contradicting Moses. So, in good rabbinical fashion, Jesus answers a question with a question: What did Moses command you? The Pharisees caught Jesus’ nuance: there is a difference between what is commanded and what is allowed/ permissible. The law of Moses did not command divorce but it did command a procedure to prevent easy divorces and to safeguard the wife with at least some procedure for justice. The Pharisees rightly answered: Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away. But why did Moses in the Law permit divorce in the Jewish civil law? Jesus answers: He wrote this command for you because of your hard hearts. In the civil law of the Jews, Moses made a concession because of the people’s inability to follow the proper, better, divine Law. God’s intent, the higher/ the natural law is what we read in today’s OT reading and what Jesus then repeats here to the Pharisees: But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate. What is found at the Creation, in the beginning, in the world before the fall into sin shows the intent of the Creator. What is later on allowed by civil law, the law of the state--here the civil law of Moses for the Jews to use to govern themselves in the Promised Land--is because of sin/ because of your hard hearts; the civil law is how human reason responds when we cannot obey the divine law because of our sin. The divine law still immovably stands as the will of God; what the civil law allows is the response of human reason of how to live and deal with our hard hearts, perhaps to prevent an even greater evil. That’s why civil law will allow what divine law forbids--like here, divorce. And that’s why just because the state/ civil law allows something because of [our] hard hearts, that does not make it moral/ right before God--here think of things like abortion or same sex so-called marriage, to name just a few. God’s law still stands supreme.
This background is also important in understanding today’s epistle because it reminds us of the world--our world--that Jesus came into. It reminds us that Jesus --the very God, the Son, the Second Person of the holy Trinity-- became also one of us, a true human being and came into a fallen world, one corrupted by sin. Our text: But we look to Jesus (the One who was made lower than the angels for a little while, so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone), now crowned with glory and honor, because He suffered death. This is what our theologians call Jesus’ State of Humiliation. It means that Jesus emptied Himself of His divine majesty and power that He had and was rightfully His as true God. He had it but did not use it always and fully. Every now and then--with each miracle or at HIs Transfiguration for example--Jesus did use His divine glory and majesty; but for the most part He was, as the apostle says, lower than the angels. And that for a little while--that is, all during His earthly ministry from His conception in the womb of Mary to His death and burial in the tomb. The very One who made all things--including the angels--was made lower than the angels for a little while. And why? So that He might taste death for everyone. Jesus humbled Himself, did not make use of all of His divine majesty and power precisely so that He could die for us.
When looking at our world full of sin, corruption and rebellion against Him, what did God do? He didn’t stay away from it, shun it, separate from us because of our sin. Nor did He do the opposite and come to this world and punish and destroy us on account of our sin. Instead, what did He do? Not only did He, the very God/ the Second Person of the Trinity come into the world, but He actually became one of us--as we read shortly after our text: since the children share flesh and blood, He also shared the same flesh and blood. God became also true man/ one of us in order to save us from our sin. And not only did He truly become one of us when He came into the world, but He also suffered the worst that the world could throw at Him. Not only do we see the rejection and hostility He faced, in today’s Gospel account for example, but we see that ultimate rejection as Jesus is killed/ crucified that first Good Friday. Jesus saw and endured the world at its worst--and why? For us and for our salvation! Jesus did not make use of His divine power and majesty precisely so that He could be our Savior, precisely so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone. How could Jesus have suffered and been nailed to the cross if He was in all HIs divine glory and splendor? The cross of Jesus--true God and true man--shows how fully Jesus obeyed His Father’s will for us and for our salvation. Jesus went to the cross to taste death for everyone because He willingly was loaded down with the sins of the world, with your sins and my sins and there on the cross paid the price for those sins. He endured for us the punishment for our sins; He experienced the full hellish anguish of death, draining that cup of sin and death that poisoned every person. There--Jesus on the cross--is our salvation.
May our eyes always be on our suffering Savior, Christ Jesus, and so may we always have the certainty of our salvation. Let us look upon a crucifix and there see depicted Jesus (the One who was made lower than the angels for a little while, so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone); may we by faith stand at the foot of the cross and there see our Savior suffering and dying for our sins and reconciling us sinners to the holy God; may we see there One, who in God’s mercy for us, was willingly made lower than the angels for a little while, so that ... He might taste death for everyone; may we approach the holy altar and there with the bread and wine receive Jesus’ very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.
But at the same time, let us remember that the One who is giving us His body and blood in the Sacrament and all that He won for us on the cross is able to do that precisely because He is alive; and precisely because He is alive, He can come and unite and be with us. But He is no longer in His state of humiliation, not fully using His divine power and majesty, but now, with His resurrection Jesus is in His state of exaltation--always and fully using His divine glory and power; He is, as our text says: now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death. Jesus, paying the price for the sins of the world, did not stay dead but rose from the dead. The Father accepted Jesus’ perfect once for all sacrifice for sin on the cross and raised Him from the dead and with His resurrection crowned [Him] with glory and honor. How do we know we are forgiven our sins and reconciled to God? The Father crowned [Jesus] with glory and honor. Instead of the cross bringing Jesus shame, His perfect and holy suffering and death brought Him glory and revealed His true status to the whole world--Son of God and Savior of the world, crowned with glory and honor. Easter so beautifully and clearly shows us that our forgiveness and salvation are sure; and now, with Jesus risen and crowned with glory and honor, He is as the God-man in constant possession of heavenly majesty and has dominion over all things. Jesus, our dear Savior, is in control of everything! What a glorious comfort we have, even/ precisely in the midst of trials: our risen and glorified Savior who loves us and died for us is ruling all things for our good. Especially in times of trial and hardship when the devil wants to get us to doubt and despair of God and our salvation, keep looking to your crucified Savior now crowned with glory and honor. Be assured of the forgiveness of your sins, eternal life, and that nothing can separate you from God’s love for you in Jesus, the God-man now crowned with glory and honor. Always keep your salvation before your eyes.
Our text continues: Certainly it was fitting for God (the one for whom and through whom everything exists), in leading many sons to glory, to bring the Author of their salvation to His goal through sufferings. What is God doing? He is leading us to glory--to eternal life with Him in heaven. But, of course, our sin shuts heaven to us; and so that is why He sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior from sin and death. That’s what we had just talked about. So, yes, Jesus is our salvation; in Him is every heavenly and spiritual gift and blessing. But God doesn’t compel or force Jesus and His salvation upon us. Instead, what is He doing? He is leading many sons to glory. By His love He moves and draws us to Jesus. Do you feel your sins? Do you feel guilt over something you have done/ are doing? The devil wants you to dwell on it and despair. But let your sins and your guilt bring you to Jesus, who brought about and gives us the forgiveness of sin. Let His mercy draw you. Go to Him for forgiveness and all those heavenly and spiritual blessings He won for you on the cross. As you feel your need, as you are drawn to Jesus and hear Him say, “Come to Me!”, as you see His arms extended to you on the cross, that’s the Father leading you to Him, that’s the Father leading you to glory. How does God show us His mercy and gather us and lead us to that glory of heaven? In and through our suffering Savior who is now crowned with glory and honor. We, dear Christian, share in the glory of Jesus as God leads us to His glory. May we always keep our salvation before our eyes-- the glory God leads us to.
Notice what the apostle calls Jesus in our text: the Author of [our] salvation. He brought our salvation about by His life, suffering and death; Jesus is the Way, the only way to salvation. But who is Jesus? --Yes, He is the almighty God Himself, but He is also true man, one of us, one like you and me, truly our Brother. And He is One who has endured and suffered the worst the devil and world could throw at Him--even rejection, suffering and death. That means He knows our sufferings and trials; He knows exactly what we are going through. And that means that He knows the best way to help us, our best rescue; and as true God, He can bring it about! Our text: For He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified all have one Father. For that reason, He is not ashamed to call them brothers. Jesus is the one who sanctifies us--He restores to us the holiness that we lost by sin. Through faith in Him, His perfect holiness is ours; by the work of the Holy Spirit He gives us, the Holy Spirit strengthens us in our fight against sin and leads us into all good works, into a life of holiness. In our daily struggle against temptation and sin and in all trials, let us remember that our salvation in Jesus is sure!
Jesus will never leave us in our trials and struggles. He will bring us safely through them all and bring us to heaven to share in His glory--truly a reward of grace! Jesus is ready to confess us before the Father that we, His dear Christians/ the Church, are truly His family as He says [Mt. 12.50]: For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother. Let us always keep our salvation before our eyes. It is, in Jesus, our Savior and Brother, certain. INJ Amen.